GRIERSON, Mary Anderson

1912 - 2012

Mary Grierson

Mary Anderson Grierson was born at Bodfaen, Craig Y Don Road, Up Bangor, Caernarvonshire, North Wales on 27 September 1912, youngest of the three children of George Rae Grierson (17 October 1872-25 November 1935), laundry proprietor, and his wife Anna née Shortridge (1876-29 July 1945), who were both born at Dumfries, Scotland and in 1911 were living at Bangor, with their two younger children, Ethel Shortbridge 8, born at Mombasa and Colin McKay 4, born at Bangor. Her mother Anna, painted in oils, and encouraged daughter Mary from an early age but Mary came to prefer the medium of watercolour, insisting that she hated the smell of oils. Mary was educated at Bangor County School for Girls where she enjoyed art and botany, but had no interest in going to university and, as an eighteen year old, her skills with the brush and pencil earned her a coveted Diploma of the Royal Drawing Society. She went to Germany, where she taught English, then came home to study domestic science at Battersea Polytechnic and in the 1930s Mary worked briefly as a confectioner in Llandudno and managed a restaurant in Scotland. On the outbreak of Second Word War, Mary Grierson joined the WAAF, serving as a flight officer with the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit at Medmenham, near Marlow, Buckinghamshire, analysing and interpreting aerial photographs, work which no doubt enhanced her powers of observation. After demobilisation she joined Hunting Aerosurveys, a company making maps from aerial photographs, who sent her on a pen-and-ink drawing course at the Field Studies Centre at Flatford Mill, Suffolk, a location celebrated in the work of John Constable. She found the experience so fulfilling that she returned there to study under the painter and botanical illustrator John Nash, younger brother of the great war artist Paul Nash (1889-1946). A botanical artist of repute, Mary Grierson received the Royal Horticultural Society’s Gold Veitch Memorial Medal in 1984, and its Victoria Medal of Honour in 1997. She also did numerous paintings for Curtis’s 'Botanical Magazine 'and other journals and designed the ‘British Flora’ set of stamps in 1967 also illustrating several books. Her work is held at museums around the world, but the finest collection resides at Kew, which has more than 1,000 of her watercolours and pen and ink drawings. In her later years Mary Anderson Grierson lived in Lynde House Care Home in Twickenham, Middlesex and suffered a stroke on 26 December 2011 and died at Kingston Hospital on 30 January 2012, she was unmarried.

Works by This Artist